My aspiration is to create wines which skilfully convey South Africa’s unique vineyard sites and extraordinary diversity – to capture a sense of provenance, whilst respectfully reflecting the intrinsic character of the fruit. By sourcing and selecting special vineyard sites across the Western Cape winelands, and pairing them with the most suitable varieties, I have produced wines that embody the very best of these distinctive and diverse regions.
Groenekloof is situated near Darling on the West Coast and consists of a series of hills running parallel to the ocean. This region is particularly well-suited for producing outstanding Sauvignon Blanc. It enjoys a maritime climate and is heavily influenced by the Atlantic Ocean just a few kilometers to the west.
The region experiences cool and misty mornings followed by warmer daytime temperatures and cooling afternoon breezes that bring relief and refreshment to the grapes. This, along with regular ocean fogs, helps to lengthen the ripening season and allows grapes to retain acidity while developing complex fruit flavors. The stronger south-easterly winds restrict the growth of vegetation in the vines and cause them to grow smaller berries with thicker skins. This also contributes to complexity in the resultant wine.
With fairly consistent weather, cold breezes from the Southern Atlantic Ocean and cool prevailing southwesterly winds, the grapes in the Groenekloof ward are ensured a long, ripening period for maximum aroma development. The deep, red, decomposed granite has a good water holding capacity which is suitable for dryland cultivation. Situated only 8 km from the cold Atlantic Ocean, the Groenekloof vineyards rise to 350 metres above sea level.
The Firgrove vineyards lie between Somerset West and Stellenbosch at the foot of the Helderberg Mountain about 6 km from the False Bay rim.
The unique soils originated around 500-550 million years ago when South America (in fact the Falkland Islands, then still attached) and Western Australia came crashing into the Cape. This particular collision deposited and broke off large amounts of granite forming what we now call Firgrove – a ridge sweeping up from the False Bay rim.
The result, 500 million years later, is granite gravel soils. Underlying these low, water holding, nutrient poor top soils is a layer of laterite which we commonly call “Coffeestone”. This Coffeestone is made from mineral elements of the decomposed granite; once more fusing together to make what is essentially a very coarse, porous layer in the soil with good water and nutrient qualities. Below this we have partially decomposed granite in the form of saprolite. This subsoil, into which the vines push their roots, is the “Tough Times Bank” where the vines can access water and nutrients in slow release through the latter part of the season. As the soil dries out, the clay cracks and allows the vines to plumb deeper to keep going.
The close proximity to the cold Atlantic Ocean, with a view of False Bay from Hangklip to Simonstown, ensures slow ripening. Sustained winds control the vigour resulting in an overall terroir effect of small bunches, small berries with concentrated berry flavours and full structured but ripe tannins.
Firgrove is ideal terroir for planting Cabernet Sauvignon and is renowned as one of the Stellenbosch wards that produces world class Cabernet Sauvignon.
With the daily temperature, an average of 5 degrees cooler than mid-town Stellenbosch during the warmer summer days, the Firgrove region is the ideal terroir to grow cool climate Syrah and delivers wine with perfume, spice, elegance and finesse.
The Firgrove area also has some of the oldest Cinsault vineyards in South Africa. These bush vine vineyards are low yielding and produce distinctive, concentrated and flavourful wines. The natural cooling effect that is gained from their close proximity to the ocean guarantees a fresh acidity in the wines produced from these old Cinsault vineyards.
Voor Paardeberg is a small grape-growing area 16 km north of Paarl. The hot, dry growing conditions here are perfect for growing Shiraz and Grenache Noir. A Rhône-like style of winemaking is employed, creating complex, wines with a balance between fruit and spice characters.
The vineyards of Voor Paardeberg stretch up the south-eastern slopes of the Paardeberg, a rocky outcrop of granite about 35 km inland from the Atlantic Ocean. While the area is hot and dry, the influence of the western coast and the prevailing southerly winds mean temperatures here are on average 5 degrees cooler than Paarl in the summer months.
These vineyards are subject to a greater diurnal temperature variation, where the much colder nights give the berries time to cool down and retain their acidity and freshness. The higher vineyards also benefit from shade later in the day, which protects them from the harsh late-afternoon sun. These temperature-moderating factors mean that the wines of Voor Paardeberg, while still robust and aromatically intense shows brightness and freshness.
Vineyards high on the mountain benefit from well-drained, potassium-rich soils composed almost entirely of granite. Potassium is an important nutrient for vine health, which – coupled with deep root systems – makes for healthy, strong vines. The Paardeberg with its decomposed granitic soils produce wines of brutal freshness and purity with deep tannins, as well as distinctive spicy and herbal qualities.
Between Paarl, Malmesbury and Durbanville lies the fertile Agter Paarl area, an area blessed with many attributes that make producing wines with distinct qualities and character a pleasure.
In the Agter Paarl, a valley between the Paarl and Perdeberg Mountains, summers are hot and dry, with colder wet winters. The farmers rely entirely on rainfall to quench the rich and fertile soil. Cool misty mornings are frequent followed by warm sunny afternoons.
The cool sea breezes that flow in from both the Indian and Atlantic oceans, approximately 50 km away, act as an effective antidote to the scorching sun, to keep the ripening grapes at an optimal temperature required to produce truly great wines.
Most of the vines in the Agter Paarl are dry land farmed bush vines grown on mainly of decomposed granite with shale, schist and clay to a lesser extent. Water retention is good because of the high underlying clay content and root penetration is remarkably deep in these soils.
Grown on Malmesbury shale and decomposed granite soils, these low yielding vineyards produce distinctive, concentrated and flavourful wines and is ideal for growing Cinsault and Chenin Blanc.